US SQUASH

Mr. and Mrs. U.S. Open: Together El Tayeb and Farag Win First World Series Titles

2017 U.S. Open presented by Macquarie Investment Management champions: Ali Farag (l) and Nour El Tayeb.

Saturday night at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Nour El Tayeb and Ali Farag both upset the seeding in the final of the 2017 U.S. Open presented by Macquarie Investment Management to become the first married couple to win World Series titles–or any major sporting title–together on the same day. In addition to both players winning their first PSA Tour World Series titles, Farag–Harvard class of 2014–has become the first U.S. college graduate to win a World Series title in the modern era.

The first ever all-Egyptian U.S. Open women’s final started slowly, with Raneem El Welily and Nour El Tayeb, both appearing in their second finals, not finding their best games and making too many unforced errors in the early stages.

From 8-all in the first Welily took three points in a row to lead 11-8. The next two games were both one-sided, the second 11-4 to Welily, the third 11-5 to Tayeb, but the pace and quality of play was now steadily improving.

It was Tayeb who pulled away at the end of the fourth and, now moving so much faster than in the early games, took that momentum into the fifth as she established a match winning 10-3 lead that, after a couple of Welily winners, was soon enough converted and Tayeb had collected the first World Series title of the season, and the first of her burgeoning career.

The women’s final between Nour El Tayeb (l) and Raneem El Welily.

“Is this true? Is this really happening?” El Tayeb said. “It doesn’t seem real. I pictured that moment so many times, for three four years, I dreamed of it, thinking I hope that one day, I can win a major title, and to be honest I didn’t think it would happen here. Just before I came, I was telling my coach, if I want to win this, I have to beat so many top players, that it didn’t seem real at the time. And now, standing here, I still cannot believe it.”

In 2015, El Tayeb defeated El Welily on her way to her first U.S. Open title, which she lost 3-2 against Laura Massaro.

“During the 2015 final, I was very nervous, and I was injured for several months after that,” El Tayeb said. “But that injury time out taught me how to enjoy the game, enjoy my squash. I’m playing squash because I’m enjoying it.”

El Tayeb is the first Egyptian woman to win the U.S. Open.

As soon as his wife clinched the women’s title in five games, Farag stopped his warm up, ran out to the court, gave her a celebratory hug, then ran backstage to be introduced ahead of his first career World Series final.

Unlike ElShorbagy who entered the match having only dropped one game on his way to the final—including a quarterfinal rest day—Farag’s three wins against Egyptians leading into the final included five games in the second round against Mazen Hesham, five games in the quarterfinals against Fares Dessouky and three games against Omar Mosaad in the semifinals and no quarterfinal rest day.

No one could tell the difference in time on court as soon as the final began, however. The first game was neck and neck with ElShorbagy firing off seven winners to earn a 9-7 lead. Farag replied with a winner and an ElShorbagy tin saw the score level at nine all. Farag fought off one game ball to send the game into a tie break, in which a boast rolling nick and drop winner earned Farag first game after eighteen minutes.

ElShorbagy controlled the second game as Farag errors gave the defending champions leads at 6-3 and once again 9-7. A crucial junction saw Farag earn a stroke, which was followed by a conduct stroke on ElShorbagy for intentional blocking, leveling the score at nine all. Farag then slotted in two winners to earn a 2-0 lead.

At five all in the third game, errors started to creep into ElShorbagy’s game as Farag pulled ahead to earn three championship balls. ElShorbagy fought off one championship ball, but couldn’t take the ball off the wall on a tight Farag rail, clinching the match and making history.

The men’s final between Ali Farag (r) and Mohamed ElShorbagy.

With the two U.S. Open titles, El Tayeb and Farag have become the first married couple to win two separate major titles on the same day. It also marks the first career World Series titles for both players.

Farag, a 2014 Harvard graduate, is the first U.S. college graduate to win the U.S. Open since Haverford College’s Diehl Mateer won the 1959 title.

“It feels unreal,” Farag said. “I have sooo many people to thank. It’s unbelievable, you may think it’s an individual sport, far from it. We have so many people around us that help us to reach where we are today. The two people I want to mostly thank are my parents, if anybody has got to be awarded this trophy, it’s pretty much them.

“They have done amazing things through the years, and I dedicate this trophy to them. But I need to tell you something, Mohamed is not kidding when he says he’s going to come back, that’s the problem. I know the next battle is going to be even tougher. I really enjoyed playing with him, with all the Egyptian contingency, it’s going really well, and that’s something we are really proud of, four of us Egyptians in the final, and I hope that the Egyptians watching us on TV now are proud of us.”

Elshorbagy, two-time champion, gave full credit to Farag.

“Ali played very well not only tonight, but the whole week,” ElShorbagy said. “He completely deserved the title this year, he was the best player by far the whole week, and he completely deserves the victory, so I want to congratulate him for his performance tonight. But I’m not going to go anywhere, I’m going to be back and I’m looking forward to more battles with Ali.”

The 2017 finals also marked the first time in tournament history that all four finalists represented Egypt.

For more tournament coverage visit www.usopensquash.com.

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